Donald Trump did what the Chicago Seven were wrongly accused of doing: He incited a riot

When The Trial of the Chicago 7 was released in fall 2020, Aaron Sorkin felt the story was relevant because of how Donald Trump had demonized legitimate protests that followed the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. The director and screenwriter told Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro that “protesters in cities across America being met by police violence, riot clubs … looked like 1968 and ... it felt like we had just kind of, like a rubber band, snapped back to 1968.”

But Sorkin said his perspective on the film’s relevance changed after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.

“First of all, Donald Trump did exactly what the Chicago Seven were on trial for,” he said in February 2021. “He incited a riot. Not just a riot, an insurrection. Let’s be clear, this wasn’t a protest that went wrong. It was an attack on the U.S. Capitol. They did what they went there to do.”

But as a screenwriter, Sorkin never could have imagined the real-life scenario played out by Trump—both in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection and on that day itself—as more details have been revealed over the past year.

As commander-in-chief, Trump was ultimately responsible for the security of the nation’s capital. But evidence shows that the president deliberately did nothing to protect the U.S. Capitol from the riot he was inciting. 

There’s certainly strong evidence that Trump’s actions were so egregious that he could be indicted for what the Chicago Seven were wrongly accused of: conspiring to incite a riot and actually inciting a riot. Yet there’s a high legal bar to convict someone of incitement because of free speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, members of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol have indicated that there are more serious charges that Trump and his cronies could face.

The committee’s top Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, has suggested that by failing to stop the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump violated the federal law that prohibits obstructing an official proceeding before Congress. That’s punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

***

I didn’t need to view The Trial of the Chicago 7 to make comparisons between what happened from Aug. 25-29, 1968 in Chicago with the Jan. 6 insurrection. That’s because I was a first-hand witness. I was only 17 and had come to Chicago ahead of freshman orientation week at the University of Chicago, and worked as a volunteer for Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign.

None of the protesters went around saying Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, or Tom Hayden sent them. No one showed up clad in tactical military gear or armed with stun guns, bear spray, baseball bats, and flagpoles. That week, people were mostly running away from police rather than attacking them.  

We were there to show our opposition to the Vietnam War and support for a “peace plank” in the Democratic Party platform after a tumultuous year that had already seen the assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

I still have vivid memories of what happened on Sunday night, Aug. 25—the eve of the convention’s opening day. We had set up a McCarthy literature table in Chicago’s Old Town nightlife district. Shortly after 11 PM, we heard loud screams coming from nearby Lincoln Park as police moved in to enforce a curfew. The city had denied a permit for protesters to camp out in the park.

Soon the streets were filled with police chasing and clubbing protesters. The smell of tear gas permeated the air—the opening salvo of what a federal commission later determined was “a police riot.”

A photographer bleeding from a head wound given to him by police during the riots in Grant Park outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention gives the peace sign as he is interviewed, Chicago, Illinois, Aug. 28, 1968.

The Second City comedy club opened its doors so people could seek refuge, and declared an open bar. Finally, early Monday some of us packed into a VW Beetle and drove to safety on the South Side.

During the Chicago Seven trial, two of my acquaintances testified for the defense. I was working part time as an editorial assistant on the Chicago Sun-Times’ City Desk with photographer Duane Hall. He was clubbed by Chicago police on Wednesday, Aug. 28 near the Conrad Hilton Hotel on the worst night of violence during convention week.

One of my roommates, Ed Phillips, was a medic in Grant Park that night who testified that he ended up bleeding from a head wound after being clubbed by a Chicago police officer. The prosecution asked him whether he could identify the police officer who attacked him. Ed replied something to the effect of: “No, he hit me from behind.”

In September 1968, The National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, formed by President Lyndon B. Johnson after the King and Kennedy assassinations, set up a study group that was headed by lawyer and future Illinois governor Daniel Walker to investigate the violence during the convention protests.

The Walker Report, issued on Dec. 1, found that while some protesters had deliberately provoked police, the police had responded with “unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions” against protesters and bystanders alike. The report characterized what happened as “a police riot.”

LBJ’s attorney general, Ramsey Clark, did not seek indictments related to the convention protests and was barred by federal judge Julius Hoffman from testifying before the jury as a defense witness in the Chicago Seven trial.

News crews interview activist Jerry Rubin (1938 - 1994) outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, August 1968. Rubin, who founded the Yippie political party with Abbie Hoffman, and five others, called the Chicago Seven, were indicted for conspiracy and inciting a riot during the convention.

Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell, however, insisted on making an example of leaders of the anti-Vietnam War movement by putting them on trial. Mitchell himself later spent 19 months in prison after he was convicted in 1977 for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury for his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up as chairman of Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign.

Eight alleged leaders of the Chicago protests were charged under the 1968 Anti-Riot Act: Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Renee Davis, Tom Hayden, Bobby Seale, John Froines, and Lee Weiner. A mistrial was declared in the case against Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, who was chained and gagged in court after protesting being denied his choice of legal representation, which brings us to the Chicago Seven.

All seven defendants were acquitted on the charge of conspiring to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot. Five of the seven were found guilty of crossing state lines to incite a riot and sentenced to the maximum five years in prison. Their convictions were reversed by an appellate court because of Hoffman’s biased and improper conduct of the trial.

***

The controversial Anti-Riot Act used to try Seale and the Chicago Seven was the creation of racist conservatives.

The Chicago Seven were charged under the long controversial Anti-Riot Act of 1968, colloquially known as the H. Rap Brown Law. Brown was a civil rights activist and, for a time, served as chairman of both the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and as Minister of Justice of the Black Panthers. He was also among the prime targets of COINTELPRO, a covert FBI program that spent years using blackmail, surveillance, and other tactics against groups and individuals from Martin Luther King to the Weatherman organization and the Panthers.

In 1967, after the FBI had identified Brown as a target for “neutralizing,” he was charged and prosecuted for carrying a gun across state lines and inciting a riot. The prosecution of Brown inspired segregationists and other advocates of “law and order” to insert the Anti-Riot Act in a 1968 fair housing bill. The act criminalizes, among other things, traveling in, or employing instrumentalities of, interstate commerce in connection with inciting or organizing a riot.

It sat on the books mostly unused after the Chicago Seven trial because of questions of whether it banned constitutionally protected speech. But more recently, the Department of Justice has used the act against violent white supremacists, including organizers of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in no small part because there is still no federal domestic terrorism statute.

***

In the days immediately following the Jan. 6 insurrection, legal experts debated over whether Trump could be charged with inciting a riot along with other even more serious offenses. Former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason wrote in The Washington Post on Jan. 7, 2021 that the Biden Justice Department should convene a grand jury investigation of “Trump’s unprecedented assault on America’s democracy.”

“We want to avoid the risk of criminalizing political differences. But that understanding has nothing to do with what happened at the Capitol. It’s impossible to characterize Trump’s incitement of the riot as having anything to do with the legitimate exercise of his executive power—just the opposite,”  Eliason wrote.

The House article of impeachment, passed a week after the insurrection, read: "Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States." Multiple civil lawsuits filed against Trump by Capitol Police and D.C. Metro Police officers also laid out a compelling case for charging Trump with incitement.

It puts things in a clear perspective if you compare what Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley did in 1968 with what Trump didn’t do in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Daley exaggerated the threat posed by the protests and did everything possible to discourage demonstrators from coming to Chicago. The city denied all but one of the permits requested by protest organizers to hold rallies and camp out in city parks. The permit refusals resulted in police initiating the violence.

During convention week, Daley had forces in place to prevent protesters from getting anywhere near the convention hall. There were 12,000 members of the Chicago Police Department on 12-hour shifts, while the U.S. Army deployed 6,000 troops to protect the city; nearly 6,000 members of the Illinois National Guard were also sent to Chicago. These forces actually outnumbered the 10,000 activists who showed up. And there were hundreds of federal and local undercover agents circulating among the protesters and their leaders.

When it comes to Jan. 6, Donald Trump did the exact opposite.

Just five days after the Electoral College cast their votes, Trump put out his tweet calling for a “wild” protest on Jan. 6, when Congress was scheduled to meet to count the electoral votes. It, along with the entirety of Trump’s permanently banned account, has since been deleted by Twitter.

As the lawsuits filed by Capitol Police officers note, Trump supporters immediately took his message as a call to arms.

Dec 20. pic.twitter.com/Jp4KBtVwFL

— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) January 7, 2021

A user named “EvilGuy” posted on TheDonald.win.com: “I will be open carrying and so will my friends. We have been waiting for Trump to say the word. There is not enough cops in DC to stop what is coming.”

Another user wrote: “Storm the People’s House and retake from the fuckin’ commies.” 

A ProPublica-Washington Post investigation found that pro-Trump Facebook groups swelled with at least 10,000 posts a day before Jan. 6, with many calling for executions or other political violence. But Trump ignored the threats of violence by his more extreme supporters and encouraged people to come to the “Big Protest Rally in Washington, D.C.” on Jan. 6. The Poynter Institute’s Politifact compiled a list of seven tweets sent out by Trump between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3. Only one of them, a retweet, made a passing reference to “peaceful protests.”

Prior to Jan. 6, there were two Trump-endorsed rallies in the nation’s capital that were billed as the “Million MAGA March”—on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12—which included members of extreme right-wing hate groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. On both occasions, Trump supporters clashed with counterprotesters as well as police, several police officers were injured, and dozens of people were arrested.

Authorities had grounds to deny permits for Jan. 6 rallies or insist that the main rally be held in a park far from downtown Washington. Instead, a permit was issued to Women for America First for a “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse outside the White House. But the permit from the National Park Service did not authorize a march from the Ellipse.

Here’s what Democratic Del. Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands said at Trump’s impeachment trial on Feb.10 regarding how Trump simply ignored the permit’s restrictions.

BuzzFeed News reported that the Capitol Police actually approved permits for five smaller rallies on Jan. 6, at points surrounding the Capitol—one permit was issued to a group that didn’t exist and the others went to what appeared to be proxy groups affiliated with Stop the Steal, a group led by right-wing activist Ali Alexander.

Trump covered his ass by using the word “peacefully” once in his closing speech at the Ellipse rally, while repeatedly saying there was a need to fight.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."

There was no cordon of police or National Guard deployed to block the marchers from making a beeline to the Capitol where they would join protesters who were already at rally sites around the Capitol. Instead, an email sent by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the National Guard would be present to “protect pro-Trump people,” and many more would be available on standby, according to the House select committee. They weren’t needed because counterprotesters didn’t show up.

At the House committee’s first hearing on July 27, four Capitol Police officers directly linked Trump’s words to the rioters’ violent actions.

“All of them—all of them—were telling us, ‘Trump sent us,’” Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino A. Gonell told the House panel. And what was Trump doing at the time? He was watching the violence unfold instead of taking immediate action to stop the attack, ignoring pleas from his daughter Ivanka, Fox News hosts, and top aides.

As former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN, ”All I know about that day is he was in the dining room, gleefully watching on his TV, as he often did. 'Look at all of the people fighting for me,' hitting rewind, watching it again. That's what I know."

***

Back in 1968, thousands of people came to Chicago “to protest in the finest American tradition outside and in the vicinity of the convention,” defense attorney William Kunstler said in his opening statement in the Chicago Seven trial. The organizers called for people to march peacefully to the convention hall and proclaim their stance on the issues—primarily ending the Vietnam War, which was then at its peak, with more U.S. troops killed than in any other year.

“We are not going to storm the convention with tanks or mace,” David Dellinger said at a pre-convention press conference. “But we are going to storm the hearts and minds of the American people.”

And there’s another important distinction. Trump and other speakers at the Jan. 6 rally, like Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, riled up the crowd with calls to “fight” long before any violence broke out.

Officers from the Chicago Police Department confront a wounded antiwar demonstrator bleeding from the head after a demonstrator who had climbed a flag pole to lower the U.S. flag was pulled down by police during preparations for an outlawed protest march on the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, Aug. 28, 1968.

Most of the defendants’ remarks cited by the prosecution in the Chicago Seven trial were made after the police had brutally attacked protesters, when emotions were running high.

On Wednesday, Aug. 28, Rennie Davis was trying to bring the situation under control in Grant Park. He asked the police to pull back after a young man lowered a flag to half-staff; officers began beating people as they arrested him.

“That just set off the police and they came crashing in. As they approached me, I literally could hear police yelling, ‘Kill Davis!’ I was hit on the head and knocked to the ground. I was on the ground crawling with my two arms trying to get away and just being clubbed and clubbed and clubbed,” Davis said in an October 2020 interview with The Guardian ahead of the release of Sorkin’s film.

Davis required 13 stitches for his wounds. Cook County Hospital workers risked their jobs to hide him as police searched the hospital to arrest him. That night the whole world was watching as the worst violence of the convention week erupted as delegates at the convention nominated Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey as the Democratic presidential candidate.

And now for a slight confession: I actually managed to get inside the International Amphitheater on the final night of the convention, on Thursday, Aug. 29. I don’t know how many other protesters can claim that distinction.

I didn’t have a Viking helmet or a spear. Nor did I hit any police officers, or use bear spray to break through their lines. It was much less dramatic. I was “Clean for Gene”—without a beard or long hair.

I joined a march, led by McCarthy delegates, down Michigan Avenue toward the International Amphitheater, but a cordon of police and the National Guard blocked the march several miles from the convention site. Some protesters sat in the street and were maced and arrested while others retreated back to Grant Park. The wife of a Wisconsin McCarthy delegate said she was too distraught to attend the convention for the acceptance speeches and gave me her guest pass.

My guest pass to the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

I promised to protest for her and rolled up a McCarthy poster that had a quote from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” I waited patiently until the acceptance speeches were about to begin. But as soon as I held up my poster, I was forced to leave the gallery by city workers packed into the guest section so they could show support for Mayor Daley.

I did get a consolation prize: As I was leaving the hall, I picked up a bunch of discarded “We Love Mayor Daley” placards. I proudly hung them over the toilet in the bathroom of my dorm room and  off-campus apartments for several years.

Republicans are preparing another ‘Contract on America’ with the aid of … who else?

There are few people in modern political history who have done as much damage to our democracy as Newt Gingrich. As the prototypical, ideological Republican “bomb-thrower” who first came of age during the Reagan “revolution” in the 1990s, Gingrich ushered in and patented an era of hyperpartisan viciousness and crass, unrelenting political rancor that finally reached its apotheosis in a GOP now firmly under the thumb of Donald Trump. As a co-author of the Republican Party’s infamous 1994 Contract with America (a revenue-gutting, deregulatory attack on government programs recast by President Bill Clinton as a Contract on America), Gingrich established the standard legislative template for all future attempts by conservatives at governance (actually “non-governance”) while in the process turning the “government shutdown” deficit-scolding and brinksmanship into routine tactics for Republicans whenever a Democrat occupies the Oval Office.

Gingrich was and still is a nasty piece of work. He is notable for creating a smear lexicon that he encouraged Republicans to adopt in which Democrats were routinely labeled with such pejoratives as “sick,” “decay,” “corrupt”and “traitors,” while Republicans were urged to self-describe their proposals with noble-sounding words like “caring,” “principled" and “common-sense.” He was a primary motivating force behind the churlish, politically driven impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Facing a broadly based public backlash against both his party’s policies and his own abrasive personality, Gingrich was forced to resign as House speaker in 1998 and left Congress altogether the following year, spending his time as an erstwhile pundit on the conservative media circuit and regurgitating his ideas in high-priced speeches and insular, right-wing think tanks.

By all standards of human decency that should have been the denouement of all things Gingrich, but because the Republican Party as it stands today has few if any purported “thinkers” able to formulate even an excuse for public policy, he remains relevant as their “go-to” man. The benighted cruelty and criminal incompetence of the Trump administration offered Gingrich as an éminence grise, a chance to reaffirm his bona fides, and he immediately signed on to parroting Trump’s requisite Big Lie about election fraud. So when relatively hapless Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy needed help in preparing his minions for the 2022 elections, Gingrich was a natural choice. As reported by Jeff Stein and Laura Meckler for the The Washington Post: 

Newt Gingrich, whose “Contract with America” in 1994 is linked with the GOP takeover of Congress in that midterm cycle, said he has been advising House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) on a set of policy items for Republicans to take to voters ahead of the November elections. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and other members of House Republican leadership are also involved in the project, which is not expected to launch until the spring or summer.

As McCarthy himself told Breitbart last week, his Gingrich-inspired project for the midterms already has a working title: “We’ll come out with a Commitment to America … We’ve been working on policy.”

In today’s Republican-speak, “working on policy” translates into looting the country for profit; initiating pointless and distracting “Benghazi-style” investigations to harass, smear, and intimidate Biden administration officials and otherwise occupy the media, and exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic by dividing and polarizing Americans as much as possible.

Republicans are expected to focus their new platform on education policies aimed at tapping into parental discontent; countering the rise of China with new economic measures; and “oversight” of the Biden administration. They are also looking at invoking other traditional GOP goals such as cutting taxes, restricting immigration, criticizing Silicon Valley and repealing environmental rules.

Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial election all but assured that Republicans now intend to present themselves as the party of education, if by “education” you meant the deliberate stoking of racial resentment among white parents and parents otherwise exhausted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The party that featured anti-teacher smears as part of its national convention, consistently and deliberately downplayed teachers’ health and safety during the pandemic, and has spearheaded a longstanding effort to privatize and eliminate public education now seeks to portray itself as a defender of our public schools, specifically by way of appealing to parents of school-age children. Except the only “parents” it seems to want to pander to are the types of parents who enter school board meetings unmasked, screaming about their “freedoms” while complaining loudly about teachers who dare to provide students with historical context for this nation’s unique and long-standing embrace of virulent racism.

As Stein and Meckler point out, however, beyond pandering to disgruntled parents, there is little that Republicans can actually do to further degrade our public schools, as much as they might want to:

McCarthy has released a “Parents Bill of Rights” that would not make big changes in education but would send some new mandates to school districts, some of which duplicate actions that are already routine or covered by existing rules and laws ...

The document also asserts that parents have a “right to be heard.” School boards almost uniformly allow for public comment, though some have shut meetings down because of disruptions including screaming and threats of violence.

The curious love-hate relationship between Republicans and what they like to simplify in broad, ridiculous brush strokes as “Big Tech” is another “policy” area Republicans plan to exploit. But this is largely a matter of insider baseball barely comprehensible to a GOP rank and file thoroughly mesmerized by their smartphones and tablets. The party appears to have no problem with the tech monopolies their own party fostered for decades as long as they amplify GOP lawmakers; it’s only when tech behemoths attempt to place curbs on the GOP‘s now requisite hate speech that Republicans find these mammoth corporations not to their liking. 

It’s difficult to take them seriously, and I frankly doubt anyone in Silicon Valley actually does. It’s also hard to take any anti-China stance seriously beyond its obvious pandering to Trump’s racist base, who appear to still believe that the minuscule possibility the COVID-19 virus originated in a lab somehow absolves Donald Trump of all the subsequent malfeasance in response to the pandemic that cratered his reelection in 2020.

One area where Republicans promise to effect big changes is in eliminating barriers to House members actually killing themselves: “[C]hanging congressional rules, such as by repealing mask mandates, removing magnetic scanners from the floor of the House and abolishing voting by proxy” are all in the works, virtually guaranteeing that their anticipated majority after 2022 winnows itself down a bit through natural selection. But beyond this, assuming they achieve a majority in one or even both chambers of Congress, the actual GOP agenda promises to be fairly threadbare, as any effort to cut taxes any further for the wealthiest Americans will inevitably run into President Biden’s veto pen. And until the Supreme Court effectively guts the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to function, Republicans’ ability to increase pollution though deregulation and accelerate global warming will also continue to be stymied.

In sum there’s not a great deal policy-wise for Gingrich or McCarthy to work with beyond criticizing the nation’s withdrawal from the 20-year Afghanistan war (a debacle that was scarcely mentioned during the two years Republicans enjoyed congressional majorities under Trump). Also, of course, everything about Hunter Biden, from his “mysterious” connection to Chinese businesses to his art deals with the Georges Berges gallery in SoHo. With Gingrich tending the till of an anticipated House majority, President Biden will doubtlessly be impeached … for something. Because the current leader of the GOP, Donald Trump, will demand it.

Of course, all of this will be happening in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Republicans at both the federal and state levels have all but ensured will continue at least through 2023. That’s the real wild card since any actions the GOP takes to further exacerbate the pandemic will be seen in light of what happens after omicron. The political fallout from a continued COVID-19 pandemic is unknowable at this point, but Republicans have already amply demonstrated they are completely incapable of formulating any policy response to it. So the focus for Gingrich and McCarthy will not be on policy, but on constant personal attacks and smears on Democrats and the demonization of the Biden administration. This has always been Gingrich’s modus operandi, and it is perfectly suited to a modern Republican Party that has long since abandoned any pretense of governance or concern for the well-being of Americans.

The first Contract on America  essentially fizzled out with Gingrich, its proponent and co-author, blithely leaving the field and the cultural wreckage he wrought behind him. Contract on America 2.0 simply promises to pick up where he left off, albeit with a GOP even more morally bankrupt than in the 1990s. Any American concerned for the future of this country should hope that Gingrich’s second bite at the apple proves equally poisonous to himself and the party that spawned him.

Newly revealed texts show Sean Hannity knew Trump’s actions after Jan. 6 were impeachable

During and after the Jan. 6 insurrection, before Fox News went all-in on greasing the skids for fascism, some of its most celebrated on-air personalities acted as though Donald Trump had been hit with a protoplasmic growth ray and was rampaging from sea to rising sea popping whole Taco Bell Expresses in his mouth like Fiddle Faddle.

Indeed, everyone with eyes knew that Trump had gone Bonkers McGee in the wake of the election he decisively lost—including Fox News personalities Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Brian Kilmeade, who all texted people close to the pr*sident to convince him to give the stand-down order during the Capitol riot. But since those dark days, when our democracy teetered on a knife’s edge, Tucker Carlson has made a career out of convincing people to die of COVID-19 (thereby making Joe Biden look bad, though not quite as bad as those goateed doofuses with intubation tubes down their throats) while assuring them that Jan. 6 had nothing at all to do with salt-of-the-earth Trump supporters. Meanwhile, just Thursday night, Hannity welcomed the disgraced ex-POTUS to his show and Turtle Waxed his barnacled balls to a high shine and finish. 

We’re finally seeing even more evidence that Trump’s media enablers thought Trump had gone too far, and that his actions following the election and the failed Bumblefuck Putsch were way beyond the pale.

A letter from the Jan. 6 Select Committee asking Ivanka Trump to testify includes newly revealed text messages from Hannity to former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany that outline a strategy for dealing with their glitching ocher overlord:

In the texts, Hannity recaps just a few points of a broader communications plan for responding to the attack, among other pieces of advice.

“1- No more stolen election talk,” Hannity reportedly texted McEnany, who herself sat down with committee investigators last week after being subpoenaed.

Per the letter, he continued, “2- Yes, impeachment and the 25th amendment are real and many people will quit...”

So Hannity knew Trump’s actions were impeachable, huh? That’s not the impression he’s been giving his viewers.

CNN’s Jake Tapper brought former Mike Pence adviser Olivia Troye on his program on Thursday to discuss these new revelations, and boy, was she ever not impressed. (Troye did some great work in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election that helped expose Trump for the menace he was and is.):

TAPPER: “A very interesting text message exchange between Trump loyalist Sean Hannity and then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. It suggests that Hannity texted Kayleigh McEnany on Jan. 7, the day after the insurrection, laying out a five-point approach for talking to then-outgoing President Trump. He started with ‘1) No more stolen election talk, 2) Yes, impeachment and 25th Amendment are real, and many people will quit ...’ to which Kayleigh McEnany responded, ‘Love that. Thank you. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce.’ Hannity, according to these messages, also told McEnany that White House staff should try to keep Trump away from certain people. He texted her, quote, ‘Key now. No more crazy people,’ to which McEnany responded, ‘Yes. 100%.’ We should note that Sean Hannity’s show was a major place where these election lies were told—in fact, they’re being sued as a result—and Kayleigh McEnany is one of the biggest election liars that we know. So what’s your reaction when you see this conversation—this private conversation.”

TROYE: “Well, it’s stunning. It’s stunning to see this full-on evidence of these types of conversations that were happening in the lead-up to Jan. 6, but even more so, just the fact that they knew the gravity of the situation—they knew the repercussions of the possibility of what would happen in continuing down this narrative, and then even more egregious is that now they’ve doubled down on it. Right? And the problem is, not only does this narrative still exist out there—the Big Lie lives on. It’s being used by people who are seeking public office this year. It’s become sort of, the Republican Party’s platform is really the Big Lie and you have to support it or you’re going to get kicked out. … You know, I think it’s important to get this evidence out there to the American people so that they can see that in the lead-up in that situation with Donald Trump, people knew. People knew that this type of action was worthy of impeachment. It was worthy of the 25th Amendment. That these are actual discussions happening with people like Sean Hannity.”

Needless to say, these hair-on-fire texts from Trump’s biggest defenders are damning evidence that they knew he was, at best, out of control and, at worst, dangerously unfit for office. And by that, I mean any office. Or office building. Or office supply store, for that matter.

Naif that I am, I sincerely believed in the aftermath of Jan. 6 that conservatives would resurrect their long-buried shame and denounce Trump. But they sort of puttered around the grave for a few minutes, figured, “Nah, this is too hard,” and went right back to shivving the country full time.

Hopefully, Republicans will begin to slink away in something resembling shame as the Jan. 6 committee unveils more evidence, but I wouldn’t count on it. After all, the Eye of Sour-Don watches, and they dare not displease their master.

Or they could try to cobble together the last remaining shards of their dignity and try to be good-faith actors—instead of, well, just actors. But that’s just never going to happen, is it?

It made author Stephen King shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” and prompted comedian Sarah Silverman to say, “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT.” What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.

Read the never-issued Trump order that would have seized voting machines

Among the records that Donald Trump’s lawyers tried to shield from Jan. 6 investigators are a draft executive order that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines and a document titled “Remarks on National Healing.”

POLITICO has reviewed both documents. The text of the draft executive order is published here for the first time.

The executive order — which also would have appointed a special counsel to probe the 2020 election — was never issued. The remarks are a draft of a speech Trump gave the next day. Together, the two documents point to the wildly divergent perspectives of White House advisers and allies during Trump’s frenetic final weeks in office.

It’s not clear who wrote either document. But the draft executive order is dated Dec. 16, 2020, and is consistent with proposals that lawyer Sidney Powell made to the then-president. On Dec. 18, 2020, Powell, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump administration lawyer Emily Newman, and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne met with Trump in the Oval Office.

In that meeting, Powell urged Trump to seize voting machines and to appointher as a special counsel to investigate the election, according to Axios.

A spokesperson for the House’s Jan. 6 select committee confirmed earlier Friday that the panel had received the last of the documents that Trump’s lawyers tried to keep under wraps and later declined to comment for this story on these two documents.

The draft executive order

The draft executive order shows that the weeks between Election Day and the Capitol attack could have been even more chaotic than they were. It credulously cites conspiracy theories about election fraud in Georgia and Michigan, as well as debunked notions about Dominion voting machines.

The order empowers the defense secretary to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under” a U.S. law that relates to preservation of election records. It also cites a lawsuit filed in 2017 against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Additionally, the draft order would have given the defense secretary 60 days to write an assessment of the 2020 election. That suggests it could have been a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February of 2021.

The full text of the never-issued executive order can be read here.

It opens by citing a host of presidential authorities to permit the steps that Trump would take, including the Constitution and Executive Order 12333, a well-known order governing the intelligence community. But the draft executive order also cites two classified documents: National Security Presidential Memoranda 13 and 21.

The existence of the first of those memoranda is publicly known, but the existence of the second has not been previously reported. NSPM 13 governs the Pentagon’s offensive cyber operations. According to a person with knowledge of the memoranda, 21 makes small adjustments to 13, and the two documents are viewed within the executive branch as a pair.

The fact that the draft executive order’s author knew about the existence of Memorandum 21 suggests that they had access to information about sensitive government secrets, the person told POLITICO.

The draft order also greenlit “the appointment of a Special Counsel to oversee this operation and institute all criminal and civil proceedings as appropriate based on the evidence collected and provided all resources necessary to carry out her duties consistent with federal laws and the Constitution.”

To bolster its provisions, the draft order cites “the forensic report of the Antrim County, Michigan voting machines.” That report was produced by Russ Ramsland, who confused precincts in Minnesota for those in Michigan, according to the Washington Post. Michigan’s secretary of state, meanwhile, released an exhaustive report rebutting election conspiracy theories and concluding that none of the “known anomalies” in Antrim County’s November 2020 election were the result of any security breach.

"This draft order represents not only an abuse of emergency powers, but a total misunderstanding of them," said Liza Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice. "The order doesn’t even make the basic finding of an 'unusual and extraordinary threat' that would be necessary to trigger any action under [federal emergency powers law]. It’s the legal equivalent of a kid scrawling on the wall with crayons."

The draft remarks

The draft document labeled “Remarks on National Healing,” also now in the select panel’s possession, provides a first look at the remarks Trump would deliver the next day, which stand in jarring contrast to other rhetoric Trump employed at the time and continues to use when discussing the insurrection.

“I would like to begin today by addressing the heinous attack that took place yesterday at the United States Capitol,” it opens. “Like all Americans, I was outraged and sickened by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem. I immediately deployed the National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders. America is, and must always be, a nation of law and order.”

That claim that Trump immediately ordered the National Guard to head to the Capitol may be false. The Jan. 6 select committee sent a letter Thursday saying that Trump’s defense secretary at the time of the riot, Chris Miller, “has testified under oath that the President never contacted him at any time on January 6th, and never, at any time, issued him any order to deploy the National Guard.”

The “national healing” document continued with sharp criticism of the attack.

“The Demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American Democracy,” the remarks state. “I am directing the Department of Justice to ensure all lawbreakers are prosecuted to the fullest extent” of the law.”

The document follows with a direct communication to the rioters: “We must send a message - not with mercy but with justice. To those who engaged in acts of violence and destruction, I want to be very clear: you do not represent me. You do not represent our movement. You do not represent our country. And if you broke the law, you belong in jail.”

The remarks departed significantly from the way he described the rioters in other contexts. In a video released during the attack, Trump struck a tone of empathy with the mob.

“We have to have peace,” Trump said then. “So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens, you see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel.”

The day after the attack, facing a torrent of criticism and public discussion about invoking the 25th Amendment in order to remove him from office, Trump delivered an Oval Office address similar to the draft remarks. In that address, Trump also condemned the violence at the Capitol and called for perpetrators to be held accountable.

A Trump spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Draft vs. reality

The draft remarks go on to describe emotions running high after an intense election. “But now, tempers must be cooled and calm restored.”

Trump “vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results,” the remarks add, and still urges election “reform” so voters could be confident about future contests.

“But as for THIS election, Congress has now certified the results,” the remarks say. “The election fight is over. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

In the year since the riot, Trump’s recent characterization of the attack has veered wildly from that sentiment in the draft remarks. The former president has described the 2020 election as “the insurrection” and Jan. 6, 2021, as “the Protest.” He has also praised Ashli Babbitt, a rioter who entered the Capitol and was shot and killed there by a police officer.

The remarks go on to strike a unifying tone in discussing the coronavirus.

“The pandemic isolated millions in their homes, damaged the economy, and claimed countless victims,” the document continues. “Ending the pandemic and rebuilding the economy,” it adds, “will require all of us working together,” along with renewed emphasis on patriotism, faith and community.

“We must renew the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family,” it adds.

While Trump has courted the disapproval of some in his own base by publicly sharing that he’s received a booster shot against Covid, he has chiefly emphasized the success of vaccines against the virus as his own personal victory.

“I came up with a vaccine, with three vaccines,” Trump told conservative pundit Candace Owens last month. “All are very, very good.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report misstated how the draft remarks were used. Former President Donald Trump delivered a speech the day following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection that was substantially similar to the document obtained by the select committee.
Posted in Uncategorized

Jan. 6 Committee requests critical meeting with Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump, who once addressed the mob storming the U.S. Capitol as “American patriots” on Twitter before swiftly deleting the post—has been requested to voluntarily cooperate with the Jan. 6 Committee’s investigation. 

In a letter to the former president’s daughter and onetime advisor, committee chairman Bennie Thompson said the panel confirmed from Keith Kellogg, former Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser, that Ivanka was present when Trump called Pence on Jan. 6 and pressured him to throw the election so he could remain in power. 

Ivanka heard just one side of that phone call, the committee acknowledged, but between that and the testimony and records already provided to the committee, Ivanka appears to have been so up close and personal with her father on Jan. 6, that she could have unparalleled information about his exact mindset that day. 

Letter Requesting Voluntary... by Daily Kos

Kellogg, according to the committee, told investigators that when Trump was getting ready to end the call with Pence on Jan. 6, Ivanka turned to Kellogg and remarked: “Mike Pence is a good man.” 

In addition, the committee also requested that the former president’s daughter offer details she may have about other discussions she witnessed, particularly those involving Trump’s plans to obstruct or impede the physical counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6. 

“White House counsel may have concluded that the actions President Trump directed Vice President Pence to take would violate the Constitution or otherwise be illegal. Did you discuss those issues with any member of the White House Counsel’s office?” the committee asked Thursday.

The committee also noted that just before the Capitol attack, a “member of the House Freedom Caucus with knowledge of President’s planning for that day” sent a message to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows saying if Trump allowed the counting of votes—in other words, a critical part of the transition of power from one administration to the next—then “we’re driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic.” 

Ivanka was also allegedly called on multiple times during the melee to wrangle her father. The committee noted media reports about Senator Lindsey Graham who called her at least once during the riot and pleaded with her to have Trump issue a statement.  

Kellogg said he urged Trump to act with haste but Trump’s obstinance was so severe that, according to another interview conducted by the committee, staffers recognized it might only be Ivanka who could persuade him to act. 

In a brief transcript that accompanied the request to Ivanka, that deposition was laid out:

 

Q: Did you think that she [Ivanka Trump] could help get him [President Trump] to a place where he would make a statement to try and stop this?
A: Yes. 
Q: So you thought that Ivanka could get her father to do something about it?
A: To take a course of action. 
Q: He didn’t say yes to Mark Meadows or Kayleigh McEnany or Keith Kellogg but he might say yes to his daughter?
A: Exactly right. 

Evidence already obtained by the committee has shown many Trump administration officials and other hangers-on were in frantic contact with the White House as the riot exploded, calling on Trump to act. Those individuals reportedly include Donald Trump Jr., Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Sean Hannity, as well as “multiple members of Congress and the press, Governor Chris Christie and many others.” 

In a text exchange from someone “outside of the White House,” an individual asked a White House staff member: “Is someone getting to POTUS? He has to tell protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed.” 

The response was chilling. 

“I’ve been trying for the last 30 minutes. Literally stormed in outer oval to get him to put out the first one. It’s completely insane.” 

The committee said Thursday this dynamic was of particular interest. 

“Why didn’t White House staff simply ask the President to walk to the briefing room and appear on live television to ask the crowd to leave the Capitol?” the letter noted. “General Kellogg testified he “very strongly recommended they do not” ask the president to appear immediately from the press room because press conferences tend to get out of control and you want to control the message. Apparently, certain White House staff believed that a live unscripted press appearance by the president in the middle of the Capitol Hill violence could have made the situation worse.” 

By the time Trump finally released a video message that was filmed in the Rose Garden asking the mob to disperse—while also telling them he “loved” them and they were “very special”—Ivanka had already been pleading with her father for two hours. 

The committee has been informed that multiple unused clips from Trump’s speech exist in the National Archives and were part of the presidential records transfer that Trump attempted to block. 

Beyond the phone call with Pence, the committee also asked Ivanka to disclose any information she might have about the delayed response for backup to beleaguered U.S. Capitol and Metropolitan Police Department officers. 

Then acting Defense Department secretary Chris Miller testified under oath that former President Trump never contacted him at any time on Jan. 6 and never, again, at any time, issued him any orders to deploy the National Guard. 

“The committee has identified no evidence that President Trump issued any order, or took any other action, to deploy the guard that day. Nor does it appear that President Trump made any calls to the Department of Justice or any other law enforcement agency to request deployment of their personnel to the Capitol,” Thompson wrote. 

Ivanka could also have insights into how Trump behaved after the insurrection.

Texts from Sean Hannity to Mark Meadows and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, for example, showed how Trump was being urged to drop the election fraud talking point. 

On Jan. 7, Hannity messaged McEnany and provided her with a strategy to deal with Trump:

“1. No more stolen election talk

2. Yes, impeachment and 25th amendment are real and many people will quit...”

McEnany responded: “Love that. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce...” 

She also agreed with him when the right wing pundit told her it was “key” that Trump stop entertaining “crazy people.” 

“Yes 100%,” McEnany replied. 

Any correspondence or other records that Ivanka might have produced in her capacity as a former advisor to the president is required, under the Presidential Records Act, to be preserved and remitted to the National Archives. 

In a particularly pointed portion of the request to Ivanka Trump, the committee attached a 2017 memorandum from former White House counsel Don McGahn where the former White House counsel had once outlined the legal requirements for records preservation for White House staff. 

McGahn was a key figure in the Mueller investigation of interference in the 2016 election and was instructed by Trump not to comply with a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee. 

The committee has proposed a meeting with Ivanka Trump for Feb. 3 or Feb. 4.

 The former president’s daughter and adviser released a statement through a spokesperson Thursday saying “as the committee already knows, Ivanka did not speak at the January 6 ally.”

The spokesperson continued: “As she publicly stated that day at 3:15 PM, ‘any security beach or disrespect to our law enforcement is unacceptable. The violence must stop immediately. Please be peaceful.” 

Notably, her spokesperson did not include the “American Patriots” salutation Ivanka put at the very top of that same statement from just after 3 p.m. on Jan. 6. 

Ivanka Trump sent this tweet just after 3pm during the January 6th attack, and left it up for about half an hour before deleting it. In real time that's when Officer Fanone was dragged out into the crowd and tazed and Officer Hodges was crushed in the doorway https://t.co/h6liZjlCHf

— Aaron Fritschner (@Fritschner) January 20, 2022

Jan. 6 panel will target Ivanka Trump for questioning

Jan. 6 investigators revealed Thursday they’re going after Ivanka Trump, who senior White House aides viewed as a last-ditch resort to convince Donald Trump to address rioters during the Capitol attack, according to evidence and testimony released Thursday.

“He didn’t say yes to Mark Meadows, Kayleigh McEnanay or Keith Kellogg, but he might say yes to his daughter?” a committee investigator asked of Kellogg, a top Trump White House official, during a recent interview, according to a testimony transcript published by the panel.

“Exactly right,” Kellogg replied, according to a transcript of the exchange.

The detail was one of a handful of new and significant revelations from the committee’s extensive probe into the events leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021. The tranche of documents highlight the frantic efforts to get the former president’s attention during the mob attack by Trump supporters on the Capitol and how his allies tried to contain the fallout in the subsequent days.

The panel indicated that as Trump pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, to overturn the election during Congress’ counting of electoral votes, an unidentified member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, warning that Trump’s plan amounted to “driving a stake through the heart of the federal republic.”

Kellogg also testified to the panel that staff advocated against then-President Trump speaking live from the White House briefing room because of concerns he might go off-message.

After Jan. 6, Fox News host Sean Hannity texted press secretary Kayleigh McEnany advising her on how to talk to Trump, the committee revealed. The first item was “No more stolen election talk” and the second was to emphasize that discussions around invoking the 25th amendment and impeachment were “real, and many people will quit.”

McEnany agreed with Hannity’s text that Trump should be kept away from what the Fox News host had called “crazy people.”

The panel also noted Katrina Pierson, a veteran Trump campaign operative who helped organize the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the insurrection at the Capitol, had also used the term “crazies” in her texts, “apparently to describe a number of the President's supporters." A source with knowledge of the text said some of Trump’s advisers used the phrase "the crazies" to refer to fringe figures such as Alex Jones, Ali, and Qanon promoters.

Now, the committee wants to talk to Ivanka Trump. Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said they’re asking her to meet with investigators to discuss information about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol or activities leading up to the event in a nine-page letter released Thursday. The panel proposed meeting with her on Feb. 3 or 4, or the following week.

“Testimony obtained by the Select Committee indicates that members of the White House staff requested your assistance on multiple occasions to intervene in an attempt to persuade President Trump to address the ongoing lawlessness and violence on Capitol Hill,” Thompson told Ivanka Trump in a letter.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — the panel’s vice chair — earlier this month hinted to ABC News that the committee was interested in that information from the former president’s daughter.

“I think it's also important for the American people to understand how dangerous Donald Trump was,” Cheney said, explaining that the committee knew that many people on Jan. 6, 2021 were “pleading with him to go on television, to tell people to stop.”

“We know [Minority] Leader [Kevin] McCarthy was pleading with him to do that. We know members of his family, we know his daughter,” she continued. “We have firsthand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.”

The committee’s invitation to Ivanka Trump is not the only hint of investigators’ interest in the former president’s family. Last week, the panel subpoenaed two of Donald Trump Jr.’s longtime advisers.

Thompson’s comments come right after a major victory for the panel’s investigators; on Wednesday night, the Supreme Court greenlit the production of several tranches of Trump White House documents. A spokesperson for the House Jan. 6 committee said the National Archives, which possesses the documents, is now in the process of sending them to the panel.

Posted in Uncategorized

Ex-press secretary says Trump held secret meetings in White House residence

According to a report from The Guardian published Thursday, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has revealed to investigators on the Jan. 6 Committee that Trump held “secret meetings” at the White House residence in the run-up to the Capitol attack. 

The committee has not formally subpoenaed Grisham, indicating that her cooperation was voluntary. She had front row seats at the Trump White House while serving as a White House communications director, press secretary for former First Lady Melania Trump, and later, Melania Trump’s chief of staff. Grisham resigned, effective immediately, on Jan. 6 in the wake of the violent Capitol assault. Her resignation was joined by White House press aide Sarah Matthews.

The alleged “secret meetings” were “known only by a small number of aides” and sources told The Guardian that the gatherings were coordinated by Trump’s right hand in the White House, former chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

Meadows initially cooperated with the Jan. 6 probe, providing some records and testimony—but he abruptly backtracked and shut down the talks. The committee, in turn, voted to hold Meadows in contempt and the full House of Representatives followed. He was referred for criminal prosecution to the Justice Department in December. So far, the DOJ has been mum about whether it will pursue an indictment as it did for Steve Bannon. Bannon, who has entered a not guilty plea, is now awaiting trial.

While Meadows would reportedly schedule the clandestine meetings, Grisham told investigators it was Timothy Harleth, Trump’s chief White House usher, who would wave the parties in. It is not clear yet who attended the meetings. 

President Joe Biden fired Harleth from the usher role one day after his inauguration. It is common for ushers to remain in their positions regardless of the administration in power but Harleth was ousted in short order as the incumbent cleaned house of Trump-era officials. Harleth previously worked as the director of rooms at Trump International Hotel. 

Grisham, according to Thursday’s scoop from The Guardian, also provided the names of other aides in the White House usher office that may be of use to the committee in their probe. 

Grisham also said that “an aide to former White House adviser Peter Navarro tried at least once to quietly usher” lawyer Sidney Powell into the White House residence. Powell was a major proponent of Trump’s incessant lies about the outcome of the 2020 election, and led the charge in claims that Dominion Voting Systems voting machines were corrupt. For her conspiratorial claims, Powell is staring down a massive defamation suit from Dominion. She was also subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 Committee this week.

Trump’s exact conduct and thinking before and during the Capitol attack when he was out of public view are at the beating heart of the Jan. 6 Committee’s probe. It has been widely reported that the former president sat idly by in the White House as the attack exploded, watching the riot from television. It was also reported one week after the assault that Trump had told aides for several days before the Jan. 6 rally that he wanted to accompany demonstrators but that he only decided not to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” after Secret Service agents insisted his safety could not be guaranteed if he did so. 

But whether he actually intended to march with his supporters that morning or purely made the remarks to raise the mob’s hackles is at debate. 

“Grisham told the select committee that Trump’s intentions—and whether the Secret Service had been told Trump had decided not to mark to the Capitol—should be reflected in the presidential line-by-line, the document that outlines the president’s movements, the sources said.”

A representative for the committee did not respond to request for comment Thursday. 

The committee has so far interviewed more than 400 sources and with its recent victory against Trump at the Supreme Court, the National Archives and Records Administration has already begun the transfer of presidential records Trump wanted to keep secret. 

The records to be transferred include critical items like call and visitor logs, diaries, internal correspondence, calendars, speech drafts, photos as they relate to Jan. 6, correspondence among White House officials, and much more. 

“The Supreme Court’s action tonight is a victory for the rule of law and American democracy. The Select Committee has already begun to receive records that the former President had hoped to keep hidden and we look forward to additional productions regarding this important information. Our work goes forward to uncover all the facts about the violence of Jan. 6 and its causes,” Jan. 6 Committee chairman Bennie Thompson said Wednesday night. “We will not be deterred in our effort to get answers for the American people, make legislative recommendations to strengthen our democracy, and help ensure nothing like that day ever happens again.”

 

Ted Cruz is trying to discredit the prosecution of violent seditionists. Any guesses why?

Sen. Ted Cruz has been beating pro-seditionist conspiracy theory drums since before the Jan. 6 insurrection ever took place. It's still a bit novel to see Cruz use his pro-sedition conspiracy theory as a campaign fundraising gimmick, though.

But here we are, and the man who once ran for president—only to be crushed by Donald Trump, then subsumed into the fold of Trump's most obsequious boot-polishers—is using the newest Republican hoax to raise money from pro-sedition members of his base. The hoax Ted Cruz is promoting is the "Ray Epps" theory:

"Who is Ray Epps? Was Ray Epps a federal agent or informant?" asks Ted. Because "We know the FBI has been misused in the past to target President Trump" and just "look at the Russia Collusion Hoax" and "Peter Strzok" and "Merrick Garland won't answer questions" and "What are they trying to hide now about the events of January 6, 2021?"

If it sounds like any other Republican fundraising letter, down to the buzzwords and linked conspiracy theories and warnings of an "extreme-left agenda," it's because the party's vocabulary has dwindled down to a mere 500 words or so, all of them focus-grouped to the last serif, and half of those are references to theories that exist only in the Fox News universe. Literally any Republican in the party could send this same letter with only a sentence or two changed to fit their current position. Whatever individuality Ted once had, back in the days when he was known mostly for being the least pleasant person to be around even in Washington, D.C., has been smoothed out in favor of Generic Pro-Trump Conspiracy Guy.

Same fundraising language, same conspiracies, same blanket defenses of the most bumbling and crooked president of the modern era as being the fault of whatever enemies Donald has a personal grudge against.

The "Ray Epps" theory is, short version, a conspiracy theory being peddled by Republican sedition backers (including, of course, Trump backers who participated in the day's violence) that supposes that actually, the crowd that Trump and Trump allies scrambled to assemble on that day and hour were goaded into mounting a violent rebellion by the FBI. Or by antifa. Or by somebody. But the important point, in the theory, is claiming that the seditionists attempted to overthrow the government only because the government egged them into doing it, and so everybody should go free and once again we really should be investigating Trump's enemies, not the people doing grotesquely illegal things on Trump's personal behalf.

Sure, the crowd attacked police officers. Sure, there were deaths. But you see, some guy was seen outside the Capitol on that day but hasn't yet been charged by federal agents, ergo that guy must have been a plant and not a real Trump supporter, ergo the crimes don't count and none of this ever happened.

Ted Cruz has some personal stake in this, of course, given that Ted Cruz was one of those who attempted to nullify an American election that day, erasing the new administration rather than obliging Trump to hand over power. Ted can't well claim that the FBI goaded him into supporting an attempted autogolpe on the Senate floor, but as federal prosecutors target individual insurrectionists with "seditious conspiracy"—the first in-court acknowledgement that individuals in the violent crowd planned their actions as a serious effort to bring down the nation's government—it is to his advantage to argue that the only coup attempt that day was his own effort and that those people were doing something else entirely.

It's not true. Both efforts were linked, as documents from inside Trump's band of schemers have now shown. Republican lawmakers and Mike Pence were supposed to challenge the election's results as corrupted and invalid; Trump and allies had organized the large crowd to "march" to the Capitol grounds at exactly the same moment to intimidate waffling lawmakers into going along—and, under the assumption that violence would break out when Trump's crowd met "antifa" opponents that never appeared that day, provide grounds for using the Insurrection Act to summon the military, declare the election nullified, and promise a "do-over" election that might or might not have ever happened.

Ted Cruz did his part on that day, and the crowd of Trump supporters did theirs. The plan failed only because Mike Pence did not go along, and the expected counter-demonstrators never appeared—which meant there was no plausible deniability for the pro-Trump militia members and others who committed violence that day.

Cruz and his seditionist allies in the House and Senate near-immediately began inventing new theories to explain why the violence was actually the fault of antifa or other "anti-Trump" forces regardless of what we saw and heard on our televisions; one of the catch-all theories has been that the FBI staged the whole thing themselves, or at least helped plan it, or at least were the people goading Trump's frothing supporters into storming the Capitol and attacking people.

It was a theory invented in real time on pro-insurrection television programs and among pro-sedition lawmakers. It was based on nothing—another hoax in the now endless stream of pro-Trump hoaxes.

In real life, Ray Epps is a longtime militia member who was once president of the Arizona branch of the Oath Keepers, one of the two militias whose members are now facing seditious conspiracy charges due to their actions before and during the coup. He was in the pro-Trump crowd for the same reason as the others: to back Trump's attempt to remain in power regardless of the election's actual results. He has so far not been charged with criminal acts for a rather mundane reason: Epps appears to have never entered the Capitol building himself, and while there is footage of him encouraging others to go inside, there is so far no footage of him telling the crowd to be anything but "peaceful."

That makes him a small fry, when it comes to prosecution efforts. Courts and prosecutors are already overburdened with insurrection cases, and even those who did enter the building are not necessarily facing much punishment unless they manage to stack up other illegal acts as well. Prosecutors aren't targeting Epps because it's a harder case to prove than the others and his violations were less severe. So far.

If Ted Cruz is going to claim that every member of the pro-Trump crowd who hasn't been charged with crimes has not been charged with crimes because they're working for the FBI, he's welcome to go nuts with that. But he'd obviously be lying—and he's obviously lying now.

The last remaining bit of this farce hinges around the question that Cruz and other seditionists demand be asked: What if Epps was an FBI informant at some point? What if he did cooperate with investigators?

Okay, Ted, you've got me. What of it? Let's say this guy talked with the FBI and squealed as squealingly as a squealer could squeal—let's say he, or somebody else in the militia movement, sat down in front of a computer screen with three FBI agents named Edward, Thaddeus, and Bifftholomew and spent 10 solid hours going through security footage, naming every last face he recognized.

So then what? Oh my goodness, somebody cooperated with law enforcement to name people who attacked police officers, ransacked offices, or threatened to hang the vice president.

That's your conspiracy theory, Ted, so tell us what that would mean. Don't snivel like a seditionist little coward and suggest that something like that might be true; come out and tell us what the actual outrage would be.

Is it that somebody, somewhere might be cooperating with law enforcement to bring Trump's most violent supporters to justice? Is that what has you so upset?

Are you suggesting that those who stockpiled weapons and who planned their actions on that day so that they would have the best possible chance of toppling constitutional government should be set free, because somebody in the crowd is a snitch?

How very odd. But it's a pattern we've seen from Cruz and the near-entirety of Republicanism over and over again; whenever Donald Trump or someone close to him gets caught doing something that would have been grounds for immediate impeachment, removal, and likely prosecution during any previous administration, the Republican Party immediately launches an all-out war against whatever public official discovered the corruption. Every last time. The Republican enemies list is now just an unending list of names of government workers, foreign diplomats, top journalists, law enforcement agents and others who have reported or testified that Donald Trump did something corrupt.

Merrick Garland is now on that list because Ted is outraged Garland's Justice Department is charging people who attacked police officers and went hunting for lawmakers with crimes. That says a lot more about Ted Cruz than it does about anything else.

There's no mastery as to what is happening here. Ted Cruz was part of a far-right effort to nullify a United States election based on a fraudulent hoax dreamed up by conspiracy theorists and seized upon by his whole party as convenient excuse. He, personally, was accessory to an attempt to erase an election rather than recognize its results. It was all a lie, and Ted Cruz was one of its chief spokesmen.

But it failed, and now Ted and the other lawmakers who engaged in that seditious conspiracy are attempting to throw up whatever barricades they can between themselves and those who are investigating the day's events. They stonewalled congressional investigation—as in, the premise that there should even be one. They have supported architects of the day's events as those figures have defied congressional subpoenas demanding their testimony. They have tossed out countless new conspiracy theories intended to discredit law enforcement investigations of the people who were caught, on camera, attacking and injuring hundreds of police officers.

Ted would rather everyone who attacked police officers and ransacked offices that day go free, so long as that means federal and congressional investigations of who sent them there are stopped in their tracks.

Why?

Because Ted Cruz was part of a seditious conspiracy himself. And however large his part is known to be, it's very, very clear that it's Ted and his fellow lawmakers who are "trying to hide" the "full truth" of what happened that day.

What do you have to hide, Ted? What's so important that you're willing to shove conspiracy theories out to your base, attempting to discredit the entire federal investigation?

Just how low do you intend to sink, buddy?

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Is Boris Johnson facing a no confidence vote?

The Independent:

What is a no confidence motion and what could it mean for Boris Johnson?

Liberal Democrats have called for Conservatives to back vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson

A motion of no confidence has been laid down by the Liberal Democrats as they seek to topple the Boris Johnson administration following a litany of claims of coronavirus rule-breaking in No 10.

Here is a look at what the Lib Dems are proposing, what a no confidence vote entails and how it works.

People are saying “future prime minister” but I’m not sure there’s a need to wait. Give her a go now, Britons.pic.twitter.com/z2stpfB86X

— Niall Stanage (@NiallStanage) January 18, 2022

NY Times:

Omicron cases may be peaking in some U.S. states, but COVID-19 is overwhelming hospitals

The United States is averaging over 790,000 new daily cases, a tally that includes an artificially low count on Monday, when many states did not release new data because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. Deaths now exceed 1,900 a day, up 54 percent over the past two weeks.

Even before the holiday weekend, daily cases had peaked in New York and other Northeastern states. According to a New York Times database, cases in the region peaked on Jan. 10-11.

the funniest part of the 2011 comedy "Contagion" is when they invent a lifesaving vaccine at the end, and then everyone takes the vaccine. hahahaha fantastic writing

— Rob DenBleyker (@RobDenBleyker) December 21, 2021

You can get your free at-home test kits here.

Julia Azari/FiveThirtyEight:

What Does It Mean If Republicans Won’t Debate?

What should we think about this development?

For starters, the RNC’s reasons to prohibit participation in the debates are important. And that’s because they fall in line with an important strain of Trumpism: a claim to being the victims of unfair treatment. To be fair, evidence does show that some important cultural institutions, including the news media, are more likely to be populated by Democrats than Republicans, but conflict between presidential campaigns and debate organizers about the journalists who moderate the debates is hardly one-sided — or new. After all, the purpose of debates is to allow voters to see candidates perform under pressure and to evaluate their responses — tension with the campaigns on how to best facilitate this is to be expected. But this move represents the Trumpist Republican Party only further rejecting established institutions and democratic practices.

I just keep coming back to this: The Republican Party has gone stark-raving brown-shirt crazy but is still expected to win back Congress next year and political journalists are going yeah, OK, instead of going WHAT THE FUCK??? AAAAH! https://t.co/Upqqqd9T7O

— Dan Froomkin/PressWatchers.org (@froomkin) January 16, 2022

Ron Brownstein/The Atlantic:

How Manchin and Sinema Completed a Conservative Vision

A nationwide standard of voting rights now seems like a pipe dream.

Those decisions have had an enormous practical impact on the rules for American elections. But many voting-rights advocates say that the rulings have been equally important in sending a signal to Republican-controlled states that the Supreme Court majority is unlikely to stand in their way if they impose new restrictions on voting or extreme partisan gerrymanders in congressional and state legislative districts.

Democrats are still pressing the two senators to reconsider their decision before this week’s votes. Barring an unlikely last-minute reversal of their position, Manchin and Sinema have effectively blocked federal voting-rights legislation by insisting that it remain subject to a filibuster that provides Senate Republicans a veto. And that could trigger a renewed red-state offensive.

Hawley: the mess made itself. https://t.co/wLjrqjJuMQ

— Greg Dworkin (@DemFromCT) January 18, 2022

David Rothkopf/Twitter:

I'm troubled by the argument I've seen to often recently from DC pundit-types, most well-meaning, that the Dems and Biden have made a mistake by embracing a left or progressive agenda and that they should shift to the center, their "true" base. This is based on a fallacy. 
Everything Biden has done has been supported by either all Dems or all Dems minus one or two Dem Senators. Does this analysis mean that 48 out of 50 Senators are "left" and that Biden needs to adjust his policies to suit the other two? 
Does it mean that he should be adjusting his policies to win the votes of so-called "centrist" GOPers. You know, the ones who are uniformly voting against the most basic protections for democracy & who have voted against measure after measure supported by most Americans? 
DC is a donut. There is no "center" in DC politics. There are two parties & a handful of people caught between them. As for the country as a whole, there is of course a center. There are independents & on issue after issue, the things Biden has supported are supported by them. 

France's parliament has approved a law that will ban unvaccinated people from all restaurants, sports arenas, and other public venues. https://t.co/pNeBm3aLQS

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 18, 2022

Jennifer Rubin/WaPo:

Dear media: Stop giving Republicans the benefit of the doubt

The story line was set: Democrats blew it by closing schools; Youngkin was “smart” to pose as a normal Republican. As The New York Times cooed: “Many conservatives see his campaign as providing a template for how to delicately embrace Trumpism in blue states.”

Delicately? Youngkin was always serious about the MAGA camp’s culture wars, as he made abundantly clear on day one of his governorship.

Shortly after his inauguration, Youngkin promptly banned critical race theory from Virginia curriculums, even though it isn’t taught in schools, thereby flaunting his willingness to cater to White grievance in a state infamous for its resistance to desegregation. He described what would be removed from school curriculum: “All of the principles of critical race theory, the fundamental building blocks of actually accusing one group of being oppressors and another of being oppressed, of actually burdening children today for sins of the past."

Listening to Youngkin, one might never know that slavery and Jim Crow are woven into the Commonwealth’s history and are relevant to ongoing racial disparities in wealth, education, health and homeownership. His airbrushed version of history is the standard MAGA effort to cater to White supremacists and wreak havoc in the schools. If only the media had taken him seriously during the campaign.

Pretty big difference US vs UK in this wave. Vaccination differences likely a big part of it. pic.twitter.com/qnHvRRb0rE

— Stefan Schubert (@StefanFSchubert) January 16, 2022

A lot of regional charts looking exactly like those South Africa charts from a month ago. https://t.co/bDlGnMx8p2

— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) January 18, 2022